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The coach got word of Brian Ferentz’s press-box tirade. Chad Leistikow / The Register

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IOWA CITY, Ia. — Word of a profanity-laced halftime tirade by Iowa’s offensive coordinator made its way to the head coach by postgame.

Inappropriate, Kirk Ferentz said of his oldest son.

Not acceptable.

Brian Ferentz, 34, was lashing out about a replay official overturning a late first-half big gain by James Butler. A 17-yard gain on the field became a fumble, Minnesota’s ball.

Kirk Ferentz was seen using his own expletive on national TV.

“It’s a tough play,” he said later.

Brian Ferentz’s words were audible to dozens of reporters seated near his path to the press-box elevators that take coaches down to the field and into the locker room.

“I just learned a little while about some inappropriate behavior in the press box by one of our coaches,” Kirk Ferentz said afterward. “I don’t know all the details at this given point, but what I heard, it’s just not acceptable. We’re just not going down that road. There’s a certain level of professionalism that you need to operate with. We’ll plan on doing that in the future.”

Assistant coaches yell at officials all the time during games. Most of the time, though, it isn’t overheard by members of the media. And there are other people in the fourth level of the press box, too. It was locker-room talk well outside the locker-room confines.

“The bottom line is there’s no room for that,” Kirk Ferentz said. “That will be addressed.”

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Josey Jewell discusses what Iowa still has to play for entering its final four games. Matt Bain / The Register

First-drive success

Iowa was so eager to get its offense on the field Saturday that it took the out-of-character step of accepting the opening kickoff of the game. The Hawkeyes had opted to defer to the second half the three previous times they won the coin toss.

It paid off.

Iowa went away from its tendencies again by passing on first down on three consecutive successful plays, starting with a play-action bootleg by quarterback Nate Stanley to tight end T.J. Hockenson for 22 yards. A 25-yard completion to Nick Easley followed, and Gophers coach P.J. Fleck was so concerned by what he was seeing that he called timeout.

Kirk Ferentz said afterward his team usually scripts its first drive of the game. This time, though, it turned into points for the first time on a first drive all season.

Stanley hit Noah Fant for five yards, then Akrum Wadley ran for four and, after a Minnesota personal-foul penalty, hit paydirt from 12 yards out.

It was 22 minutes before Iowa gained another first down, but the opening drive at least showed that the offense can be successful when passing on first down to set up the run, keeping defenses off-balance.

After going away from that formula, Iowa ended up 0-for-6 on third downs in the first half, with five punts and no more points.

Sure-handed VandeBerg returns

Senior wide receiver Matt VandeBerg was Iowa's punt returner when the season began. He returned three punts for 37 yards against Wyoming before the job was given to junior cornerback Joshua Jackson the following week at Iowa State.

But Jackson had since repeatedly hurt the Hawkeyes with his decision-making in those spots, giving up crucial yards on punts he either was unable to field or decided to catch near his own goal line. He had five returns for 36 yards in six games.

On Saturday, VandeBerg was back deep again, as the Gophers punted five times in the first half alone. He wasn’t flashy, returning one punt for five yards. But VandeBerg was heady in racing to corral four other punts for fair catches, holding Minnesota to a 37.4-yard average.

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James Butler discusses his emotional return to action after missing five weeks with a dislocated elbow. Matt Bain / The Register

Injury update

One senior in for the long haul, one senior out.

James Butler opted to skip the possibility of applying for a medical-hardship waiver, and he carried 11 times for 28 yards Saturday night.

The news wasn’t as good for fifth-year senior offensive lineman Boone Myers, who Ferentz said had surgery on his ankle that just wasn’t healing. Myers — a two-year starting left tackle — tried to play through the injury in Iowa’s first five games as a part-time guard. But ultimately, he decided to get it surgically repaired.

“Hopefully that’ll get him on the right path,” Ferentz said.

It sounds like Myers will be out for the rest of the regular season; perhaps he could return if Iowa reaches a bowl game.

Butler, meanwhile, returned with a brace around the right elbow he injured in Week 3 against North Texas. The graduate transfer from Nevada received his first carry in the second quarter, and it gained 2 yards. He then had a 13-yard run called back by holding.

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Learning to run

If there was a sliding scale of mobility, Nate Stanley would be closer to Peyton Manning than Michael Vick. He’s a prototypical pocket passer who scrambles ahead only when necessary.

Still, the true sophomore still needs to learn it’s OK to use his legs now and again. And it seemed as the game went on, he was understanding that.

With a chance to take control of the game early, Iowa’s offense faltered on a third-and-2 on the possession after taking a 7-0 lead. And it was on Stanley. He rolled right with plenty of green turf in front of him … but instead threw the ball out of bounds.

“Yeah, I think I would be able to make a couple yards here or there when it’s necessary,” Stanley said earlier this week.

And he showed in the second quarter he can run. He kept the ball on a designed read option for a gain of seven yards. He later scrambled for a 6-yard gain.

But still, Stanley’s early throw-away resulted in a three-and-out. Think it wasn't a momentum-changer? It marked the first of five straight Iowa possessions of three plays or less.

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Game ball for Gary

Gary Barta returned to the press box for a Hawkeye football game Saturday — after, for the first time he can remember, missing one.

The Iowa athletics director recently had surgery to remove his prostate. He said Saturday he was diagnosed with cancer this summer. Since the news became public, he said he had hundreds of people reach out to send well-wishes.

“The prayers and outreach was humbling and overwhelming,” Barta said Saturday prior to Iowa’s game vs. Minnesota.

Barta spent last Saturday at home, recovering from surgery, during Iowa’s 17-10 overtime loss at Northwestern.

“My wife and I were trying to remember … in my career that I didn’t go to a home or away football game. That was really odd,” said Barta, in his 12th year as Iowa’s AD. “I’d rather never do it again. I’d much rather be there. That’s part of who I am.”

Barta said he’ll aim to return to the office this week, but will take it slow. Prostate cancer runs heavily in his family history. The hope, of course, is that it won’t return.

“I’m going to come back to the office a little bit next week, part-time. Whatever that means,” Barta said. “We’ll see how that goes. I’m smart enough to know that a relapse would be worse. So, I’m not going to push it.”

After the game in the locker room, Barta was given a ceremonial game ball.

“Just thrilled for him," Kirk Ferentz said. "Great to have him back with us.”

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